News | March 14, 2019

WRP gives agency 64 chances to hire college students, recent grads

By Beth Reece

The Defense Logistics Agency has 64 openings in this year’s Workforce Recruitment Program. For managers, that’s 64 opportunities to test a prospective employee before hiring them.

The WRP is an annual recruitment and referral program that places prescreened college students and recent graduates with disabilities in 14-week internships at federal agencies. One of several tools DLA uses to attract and retain people with disabilities, the program outweighs the typical hiring processes because supervisors get the chance to assess candidates’ capabilities with no strings attached, said Nancy Rivera, DLA’s WRP program manager.

“Those 14 weeks are actually a free performance period that can help supervisors determine whether the person is a good fit for the agency. Most the time, supervisors know whether it’s a good match within just a couple of days,” she said.

Of the 1,109 WRP interns DLA has temporarily hired since 1995, 150 have been permanently hired through the noncompetitive “Schedule A” authority or the agency’s Pathways to Career Excellence Program, a two-year program designed to train entry-level personnel for subsequent advancement.

“It’s better to hire someone whose work you can see through the WRP than someone through USAJOBS, where you’re only going by a person’s resume and interview,” Rivera added.

Interns’ salaries are paid for by the Department of Defense and slots are portioned out to federal agencies through DoD’s Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity. The agency’s participation has almost tripled since 2015, when it had just 38 slots.

DLA employees like Edward Dalton, a scientist at the DLA Troop Support Analytical Product Test Center, and Michael “Cody” Romine, a contracting specialist at DLA Aviation, are recent examples of WRP interns who’ve been noncompetitively hired into permanent positions.

Paul Jensen, chief of DLA Aviation in Huntsville, Alabama, requested four WRP interns when his staff struggled to keep up with increasing demands three years ago.

“I went into it just needing some help but found people who were willing to learn and work hard. Their performance was so outstanding that I’ve tried to use them to fill permanent positions as they’ve come open,” he said last year.

He hired Romine through the Pathways to Career Excellence Program last February and has since hired another WRP intern, Jennifer Triolo, into a permanent GS-11 contracting specialist position based on her performance and prior procurement experience.

Allison Higashi, a contracting specialist with DLA Troop Support Pacific, completed her first WRP internship with DLA Disposition Services in 2009 and her second with DLA Troop Support the following year. Higashi initially planned to work in human resources but was attracted to the contracting field one year before completing her graduate degree. Like Romine, she permanently joined DLA through the PACE Program and is now a contracting officer who interacts daily with warfighters in Japan.

Hiring a WRP intern is a quick process that takes two to four weeks and minimal effort from supervisors. It begins when supervisors notify a WRP coordinator at DLA Headquarters or their major subordinate command that they’re interested in hiring an intern. Coordinators then generate a list of candidates from WRP’s database of over 2,000 students and recent graduates in career paths such as management, information technology and accounting.

“WRP coordinators are here to make things as smooth and easy as possible, but once we give supervisors the list, it’s really up to them how quickly things go from there as they conduct interviews and select a candidate,” Rivera said.

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